Tuesday, 3 May 2016

I've been slow

Sorry to have been slow about debriefing about the intensive Vipassana course.

10 days..,.We arrived on Monday evening and settled in.
The air was electric...everyone got there early ( well most did)...and so we had 3 hours small talk (meditators are not good at small talk).
I had the joy of taking Maria in the car...part of the ride-share.......this in itself says something about the commitment of participants to each other....we were glad to offer lifts.   Maria was really nice. Though an Australian by birth, she returned to her family's homeland aged 8, and ultimately ended up in that country's army...working in Brussels for NATO
Some how she discovered meditation.
We rather hit it off...though I  am not sure she thought my driving was that great as we drove through the lovely road to Walker Flat...a narrow strip of the River Murray.

In the evening we had an easy supper...soup (vegetarian) and toast a la garlic.
We were led into the Meditation Hall men on ne side and women on the other. And then the Noble Silence began.

A word about The Noble Silence
Absolutely NO talking between anyone other than students (eg me et al) and teachers or managers.
The two older guys I was billeted with agreed that we would observe the Noble Silence...(personally I would have been crapped off if they had thought otherwise).
Well one of us struggled almost immediately with the Noble Silence.  Half way through the night both of the other guys were snoring.  And V got up about 1.45 a.m. and shook G...who was startled at being untimely awoken.
"Mate, mate...you've got to stop snoring, I can't get to sleep"
I didn't think this boded well, at the very least what was going to happen was that we were going to seethe in silence, unable to do much about the two people we shared with...who we didn't really know.   And we had to be up by 4 a.m..

Any way we settled back to sleep and true to form the gong was struck at 4 and we bounded into the shower to be ready to go at 4.30 a.m.!

Two hours meditation, the last 45 minutes being recorded chanting which after 4 or 5 days got to me and I left them to it and went to either meditate on my bed! Or just to sit quietly.

Breakfast at 6.30 a.m.  Separated dining areas for men and women. I observed at the end that it was quite OK to be separated...a lot less stressful. Though it's amusing to be with 20 guys vying for food . All food was vegetarian...breakfast is easy like that: Porridge, stewed fruit, muesli, various types of seed, yoghourt, ...and then those guys (panicking that they are not going to have enough food) have to make bulk toast!
So now it's 6.50.....and we've already been up for 3 hours.
Proper rest...learnt that it was good to actually go back to bed for an hour....more coming

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Veganism and meditation

I think I accidentally ate a piece of bacon this morning.
I am not a vegetarian or a vegan. Though I like both styles of food.
One of the curiosities of the forthcoming Retreat is that we will eat only a little food (some people even report that they lose weight... could drop a couple of kilos quite happily)
The food will only be vegetarian and erring on the vegan side. The difference is that vegans don't eat any animal products. No milk, butter or eggs. No cheese, yoghourt . You cannot eat most lollies (they have gelatine...made from calves hooves) and you can't have honey. Some vegetarians eat fish but vegans don't, and certainly not poultry.
Having been the principal chef for a vegan child I have learned what to do to get a balanced diet. and to get protein into the diet, and (probably more importantly) flavour.
So I can make a good lentil burger.

And have made a couple of dozen in the last few days. And taken time to cook rice properly, with herbs and spices.

This week in preparation for Boot Camp I have been addressing the Vegan Calculus (that is, reducing the intake so that animal products tend to zero...mathematicians might get this not very funny joke) 
Of course Asian food embraces plant foods. The lentil, the Soy Bean, Coriander, garlic, ginger, cumin, Bok Choy. I don't imagine our retreat food will look quite as exotic as the picture above.
But our focus is not on food...it is on meditation.
In truth Westerners are horrified that we might not eat bulk meat. We are terrified that we might have to eat a little food rather than enormous quantities...All you can eat...has become the catch-cry of the obese generations that look to be a serious threat to Western life.
So I did what I normally do, ate a piece of bacon that was just there, without any intention, reflection or indeed thought!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Preparing for Vipassana

I am about to start some of my annual leave and am going to spend 10 days on an intensive mindfulness retreat in the Vipassana tradition.
I would like to say "this will be fun" but it won't, it will be hard work. Including things like meditating at 4 a.m.  The teacher suggests you do that because later in the day everything gets crowded out.  I find this to be true.
There is a good article here about how it works.((http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/mar/31/meditation-retreat-vipassana-new-zealand-exhausting-silence-spiders?CMP=share_btn_fb#_=_
)pretty scary!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Coffee spoons

One of the most perceptive comments about the movement of life is the oft quoted linee oTS Eliot's poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock ..I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.
Some days seem like that to me, I go from one cup of coffee to the next...though perhaps I could more accruately say I have measured out my life by radio programs.
There are certain things I like to listen to and they rather punctuate the week.
Sometimes I find myself organising my life around them...being in the right place at the right time....or being close to the radio at the right time.
Mondays are often like that...because I like to listen to political commentatorst making comment about the ridiculous carryings on in our nation's capital.
Then sometimes, like Eliot, I look back and see how pathetically small it all is
Contrast that with a a few years ago when we  had a rather overwhelming family week .
When we had the funeral of the last person in a generation. So now in that branch of the Little family (my mother) I am part of the oldest generation. That is secretly overpowering I think.
We had a wedding, and the matron of honour decided she would give birth...not during the ceremony, ....but a new generation continues. The wedding was terrific and there was a real sense of family.
At one stage we had a "Clark photo" and though there were thirty odd of us I suppose (and could have been more) there were only my immediate family who are actually still called Clark. And in that curious way that things go on, I realised because I have daughters and my brother has no children...it is unlikely that our name will be perpetuated any way.
Does it matter?...Is it coffee spoons...or radio programs? Maybe. But important to one's own family

Monday, 29 February 2016

Another remarkable man

Another remarkable man and Anglican, Malcolm Boyd,  who is also a priest ( oh my goodness you lay people have it easy) died this week.

Boyd was 93. He was one of those wonderful thinkers who was able to challenge the community of faith to "look/live outside   the square". That is,  to think creatively. (a full newspaper eulogy in The LA Times is here)
Part of the article tells us quite a lot 
" Boyd was elected president of PEN, an advocacy group for writers' freedom of speech. He started living with Mark Thompson, who was a senior editor for the Advocate, a national gay and lesbian newspaper. At the time, it was generally expected that gay Episcopal clergy remain celibate.
Twenty years later in 2004, when Boyd and Thompson renewed their vows in a church ceremony, the majority of Episcopalians had approved of gay marriage at a national conference. Boyd's anniversary service was held at the Episcopal Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Los Angeles with five bishops among the guests and Bishop Jon Bruno presiding.
Boyd and Thompson married in July 2013, after Proposition 8 was overturned and same-sex unions resumed in California.
“Malcolm lives on in our hearts and minds through the wise words and courageous example he has shared with us through the years,” Bruno, bishop of the six-county diocese, said Friday in a statement. “We pray in thanksgiving for Malcolm’s life and ministry, for his tireless advocacy for civil rights, and for his faithful devotion to Jesus who now welcomes him to eternal life and comforts us in our sense of loss.” 
In his later years, Boyd was writer-in-residence at the Cathedral Center of St. Paul. He also worked as a chaplain for AIDS patients and helped to establish a gay history archive at USC.
He continued to write. In a 2014 Huffington Post column, he asked, in his down-to-earth style, for a chat with Pope Francis about religious discrimination against gay people.
"Is this asking too much?" he wrote. "Pope Francis, are you on board?
"I'd like to spend a reflective evening with you, send out for a pizza from a great place near the Vatican, open a bottle of Chianti, put our feet up, relax, and share thoughts and aspirations."
RIP another good priest.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Religion is not a "private pursuit"

We do not live in isolation.
The slightest thought of the manifestly intelligent person should help us realise that religion is not a personal or private pursuit. 
I mean religion is essentially a community activity, it's about relationships, family life, society....etc and etc.


It's a big call to question the Pope's right to make observations about outrageous things that people say from a religious perspective.

Let's face it, Trump doesn't seem to have any qualms about questioning the Pope or  anyone's bona fides on anything. Certainly  he doesn't seem to think there are any limitations on his right to comment on things that he is manifestly not qualified to coment about.
As for the furphy that religion is private and leaders should not offer political critique, try telling that to Mary...who saw her son crucified. 
Or to Mohammad, peace be upon him, who never felt such compunction. Or to George Bush who blatantly exploited his evangelical credentials.
Or to Barack Obama who sang with true faith of God's Amazing Grace. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN05jVNBs64)

Friday, 12 February 2016

Mr Human Rights and Cardinal Dicky Heart

An excellent article with some strident observations from Elizabeth Farrelly about Ruddock's appointment to UN human rights representative for Australia. She rightly questions his credentials.
I also make the observation:

One would also wonder why at age 72 he needs another appointment any way. And I wonder how much it pays.

He has after all been in safe seat Parliament for 40+ years. That would seem a significant pile of superannuation and other benefits which Parliamentarians have so readily afforded themselves,

Farrely observes:
To anoint Philip ‘children overboard’ Ruddock as our special envoy on human rights is an irony of breathtaking proportions. It’s almost as bizarre as allowing George Pell’s dicky heart to distance him from those whose hearts he helped break. In both cases, Australia looks weak, venal and mean.


The WHOLE ARTICLE  is here


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Partisan and unlovely

It is interesting to go to a meeting of those who belong to the same club/group/church/association ....or what ever, as you.  And you realise that within that shared community you are also in some respects on different sides of the fence.
The word we use is "partisan".
I belong to one party
and you/they belong to another.
It is not quite the right way to name it.
I went to such a meeting this afternoon.
The "Boss" of the meeting is not in the same party as I am.
The other participants are in many respects also at the the other end of the spectrum.
We are, however, all members of inner city parishes that seek to reach out to the homeless, the disenfranchised and what are now customarily called "the unlovely". Those people who society could not give a sh&t  about.
They are by and large lovely people. They are broken, and there does not seem like any easy, or even,  a possible, solution.
I can only think that I, and my friends who get it too, will just try to stick with the 'unlovely'
I am not a fan of WWJD ...but I suspect he would  actually want us to realise that in our hearts and in our  minds, he would want us to do so much more than just offer platitudes.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Who's in detention?

I wrote to Matt Williams  (MP for Hindmarsh, SA) about the present Government policy concerning immigration detention

Dear Mr WilliamsI have always been glad of your replies (even if sometimes taking a few weeks) to my questions.Can you tell me what is your understanding about the number of children who are in detention in the so called "arrangements" with Nauru and Manos Island. In particular I would be interested if you can you tell me how many children have been shifted from the mainland to Nauru and Manos to make it look as though we have actually reduced the numbers of children in detention, even though we have added to those on Nauru and Manos.



He replied :
Dear Stephen Thank you for your email. At the moment there are 79 children in detention which includes 72 children who are scheduled to go back to Nauru. The Immigration Minster has been working hard to get that number down to zero as quickly as possible. In some cases parents of the children have adverse ASIO assessments. We will not be releasing that parent out into the community but we are trying to make arrangements for the mother and children to go out. Like you and the Immigration Minister I want all children to be out of detention and the Government and Immigration Department are working very hard to achieve this. I discuss this matter and other migration issues with the Minister during our regular meetings in Canberra. Thank you again for raising this matter with me. Yours sincerely
Matt

I leave you to decide whether this is satisfactory. 

As for me. It is not!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

An exposé...Clive Palmer exposed

Hopefully this will expose Clive Palmer
"I won't be repaying sacked workers the money I used to further my own political ambitions/self-interest"
Shame on him!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

For Dawn











A birthday is a gift,

when you are our age. 

A gift because we can share, 

our lives , our loves, 

with those who mean so much

No way to Australia

I live in the swinging (but very ethnically diverse of Hindmarsh)
I wrote recently
"Dear Mr Williams
I have always been glad of your replies (even if sometimes taking a few weeks) to my questions.Can you tell me what is your understanding about the number of children who are in detention in the so called "arrangements" with Nauru and Manos Island. In particular I would be interested if you can you tell me how many children have been shifted from the mainland to Nauru and Manos to make it look as though we have actually reduced the numbers of children in detention, even though we have added to those on Nauru and Manos."                                        

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Now this is an endorsement you would want...NOT

Guardian Australia reports that Sarah Palin, gun toting Governor, has endorsed  Mr Trump.
Big question about whether this is the sort of endorsement you actually want
Quoting Guardian 
In a rambling 20-minute speech, Palin praised Trump and expressed her desire to “Make America Great Again”, using the opportunity to go on a rambling and confused attack on both parties. She condemned Barack Obama’s foreign policy and the Iran deal, and went on to say that under the current administration, “we kowtow and apologize and then bend over and say ‘thank you,enemy’.” Instead, Palin said we should “let our warriors do their job and go kick Isis’s ass.” She also attacked Obama for his 2008 “hopey changy stuff.”

Umm, I like hopey-changey stuff too!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

In the Darkness

IN THE DARKNESS

It is in the darkness 
that he comes:
an open stable
a dangerous garden
an empty cave

We barely see the shimmer
and fail to recognise 
the challenge
we just as easily 
walk away
unmoved, unrealising
that it is in the darkness

that life is changed

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The remaindered life

WE wonder rather
what our life is like!
Is anyone taking the slightest bit of notice!
or have we passed into the area that no one could care less





It is a problem that clergy, and other caring professionals face every day
who even cares about  what we say or do?

Personally it worries me a little that I am so easily discarded
I presume to think that I have quite a lot of important input to offer into the human condition.
Things like ......death is important.......kids must not be sacrificed......don't allow political  correctness to tells us that... this or that....is not important

I now have a  granddaughter....and to my mind she is the MOST important thing in the world
I think most, if not ALL, grandparents get this

More important  than my children (much as I love them),
more important than World Politics,
and more significant than theology, philosophy and any of the serious academic pursuits
If we don't get it right for our kids and grandkids
then we have most likely lost the plot!

I don't fully understand  this...but I know it to be true.

She (and her ilk) must be the focus of the world


The fact that many of us have the same reflexion is pretty great.
Our grandchildren are more important than anything


This might just save the world that is hell-bent on self-destruction

Monday, 16 November 2015

Discursive terrorism!

I have some sympathy with the lovely British comedian Jason Manford who got caned by Facebook (shame on them) for declaring that these 'idealists'  are in actual fact cowards.
To be fair he said a bit more than that but I don't think his observations were misplaced


To open fire on unarmed civilians, is not bravery and idealism.
It is total and utter cowardice

It is bullying and thuggery.

I imagine the prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him, would be deeply ashamed of the evil that is perpetrated in his name. 
I have been interested about my own reflections, and those who live hand-in-glove with me about what this means.
As I drove into Adelaide yesterday (quietly on Sunday at about 8 a.m.)  I thought about how we might feel about such awfulness. Then cast my mind back 24 hours....the Christmas Pageant.
My granddaughter (10 months old ) was present....and loved it. 
200-300K people present just celebrating their community life....what if a bomb? or a gunman..?  it doesn't bear thinking about.   But my conversations led me to believe I was not the only one who thought this thought!

So I don't emir from J Manford's sentiment

Equally well, as my eldest daughter and I were practising speaking French, we spoke about the Tour Eiffel.   How it had been evacuated; and how easily three or four well-placed bombers could have taken it out.....shudder!

Surely these mad boys ( for such they are...BOYS....will blog about this shortly) don't want to live in a world in which families cannot have lunch together, or friends laugh with each other....

Having been a boy, I know that boys are not that bright!   They get enthused. But we are a bit thick!

Easy targets for unscrupulous propagandists who convert their stupidity to misguided 'enthusiasm'...which is a most dangerous thing!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Devastation

The last time I went to Europe I came back and said....I don't need to go to Rome again (don't let me fool you...if you'll pay I'll go!) and I don't need to go to London again (see above) 
BUT if I never go to  Paris again then I will feel diminished 
This last attack threatens that.
I do not want to never be able to go to Musee D'Orsay, to the Picasso Museum, the Rodin Gallery...and to Notre Dame.
Mind you (going back to Rome) I love the Lateran Basilica and assisted at Exposition for a week!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Traversing the eternal web

It is always difficult to traverse late October to early November for a Christian.
The focal feast is November 1 which is All Saints Day the derivative celebration is Halloween (Oct 31) when for some reason we seem to focus on "ghosties and ghoulies and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night" but here's a go.
Personally I think that Hollywood etc can lionise  ghosts, and demons.
But the Christian reality is that they don't hold sway.
There is no doubt lots of stuff that can be said about demons, dibbocks, and personal devils.
The truth is that Christian theology says Jesus says this stuff is powerless.
In reality ....were OLJC less sophisticated  he would say it is bu&&s&^t!
So, I am confident in a couple of things(from my pastoral ministry)
1. Jesus has won!
2. The forces of evil and deception will try to convince us that they still hold sway

As OLJC might say this is  bu&&s&^t!

Evil has NOT won. Demons have no power!  Tell them to nick off, and turn away.

In return do good. Seek to do charity. Care for the poor. And talk to Jesus


(you people...my lovely friends who are not Christians...won't get this...but bear with me!)

Friday, 23 October 2015

Have you got round to reading this great novel

This is sometimes said to be both a Chinese curse or a blessing.. may you live in Interesting Times.. personally I am inclined to think it is better to live in interesting times.
It was an interesting week earlier in the year.
A funeral of a friend who died quite quickly. 
I was called to bless a dog that was going to be put down.
Australia is besotted by the centenary of ANZAC at Gallipoli.
The Dr told me my "blood" was OK but I have a B12 deficiency (reading the Wiki entry it seems to describe me to a T)
I read The Narrow Road to the Deep North  an amazing read for Australians intent  on misunderstanding the involvement we had in WW1 & WW2 :Thom Keneally's review here)
I attended one of the many Parish Nomination Committee meetings [I have become  a "professional Diocesan nominator"...and the level of vacancy makes it rather taxing... I take this role very seriously, and I am glad that His Grace seem to do so also] The church is changing, morphing, declining, growing....those things may seem contradictory...but church is rather like that

Interesting times!
In the meantime...I live with an interesting person (my daughter!....lest you forget!) , I married my niece. I visited a jail. And greatest of joys...I went to fix my daughter's shower....and was able to hold the most precious member of our family in my arms. I like that better than anything else (even better than the sound of my own voice!)

Interesting times! Interesting times?
A curse, but most likely,
a blessing

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Bullying of women....

I rather agree with an early February comment in The Australian that the report of the Human Rights Commission into asylum-seeker children in detention is two years too late. Gillian Triggs, the chair admitted this herself.
But to witness the attempted humiliation of  Dr Triggs before the Senate Estimates' Committee earlier in the year  is outrageous.It is to her credit that she has not been cowed by the bully-boy (I use that term advisedly, almost always it is "boys" who don't like it when women stand up to them)


Her reputation as an international lawyer is impeccable but the findings she released did not suit the narrow political agenda of the Abbott government.
It does not seem to me  that she was in any way partisan. By and large she says that Australia (not any particular party) should be ashamed of its treatment of children seeking asylum.


Yet the Government of the day (very much under siege on all sorts of fronts) chose to demand her resignation. Some of them deny this but the evidence would seem to contradict this.
What I find offensive is the patronising behaviour  of certain members of the commitee with some of the male Senators constantly referring to female witnesses as "my dear" and the, what would seem like, bullying tactics by some of the elderly male Senators who seem to think that women should be seen and not heard!
"I thought you might like to hear a man's voice!"   says coalition Senator Barry O'Sullivan after he thought women had been speaking too long
I would assure Sen O'Sullivan that there is a lot of catching up to do. Men have been allowed to out -talk women for decades in the political arena.
Well done Dr Triggs!


She has continued to speak out, and may she long do so!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The change in my life- The Popstar

This first week of 2015 was a monumental week for me 
A couple of years ago, probably when I was feeling a bit down, 
I prayed the prayer of a patriarch (look up Abraham, Isaac and Jacob if you need to understand the Jewish Christian heritage.)...but there are plenty of other Patriarchs & Matriarchs....
I think of Henry  & Lillian Clark for example, 
who would never have thought of  themselves as such 
and yet parented 4 daughters, 2 sons, 9 granddaughters,  4 grandsons who in turn have parented  8 daughters & 7 sons...
this will at least give L something to check and tell me I have got the numbers wrong
I prayed as Abraham and Sarah had prayed...

or tried to... that I too would be the father of a generation.
She's looking pretty good so far, 

more than one person has commented that she would appear to have her eye on me....
and those long curly baby fingers...
well I am pretty well wrapped around them!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Knowing then what you know now

I am actually quite fortunate in that I went to two "quite good"  secondary schools.
When we moved to Australia I went to Whyalla Technical High School
But in those days country schools had no conception that  "country students" might do more than work on the land, or at the steelworks, or in the shipyard.


Let's face it ...this was never going to be my fate!
I came from England with two other languages in tow....French and German....but could only pursue French.  ( I can just get by in both...,.this is a case of how 'education' may well have destroyed a native talent!)
The Science and Maths was Ok and the English was OK.  Music was virtually non-existent,  

as a mediocre cellist there was no-one who could take me to the next step. 
As a quite reasonable singer, there was no one to train my voice.
I didn't even really realise this was happening....I was too busy learning how to smoke!
I lament these things. But life's like that
Whitehaven Grammar School was a classic school of the English Grammar School tradition.
My French and German would have been cemented and I would probably have got a grounding in Russian.
I learnt only later in  life that I have  a bit of flair for languages.
I can now struggle by in Hebrew, NT Greek ...and my German and French are still OK.
I lament the lack of Russian!
Soooooo....today, as you do,
I have had a little contact on Facebook 

with former school contacts.
I remember that  

I played the Cello in the orchestra for Trial by Jury in 1967, 
that I was a policeman & a pirate of Penzance
That I had been H. Higgins in Pygmalion along with Lynn Breuer (formerly Raymond...and speaker of the Legislative Assembly....who was much better than me !) 
That I had been a Duke both in Merchant of Venice,  and in Twelfth Night
That I had conducted  B.Britten's Let's Make an Opera!.....so I can't complain.
Just sort of wish I'd known then what I know now!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Oh Dear!...looking back

#stephenclark In the way of these things I have worried a little about my personal blog
Does it still connect?
I have been less than diligent, once upon a time I blogged every day...second thing I did after prayers .....but it has been more spasmodic of late
I have just gone back  through the last 6 or more months and realised that maybe I have made more significant comment than I had thought.
So let me just review some of this over the next few days:
I am thankful that I had a modest education (http://stephenclarks.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/oh-school.html)  I wish it had been more rigorous. Particularly from the arts and music standpoint...but it was OK ! (just!)